New Obamacare push features mom jeans, 'MOM' tattoo

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

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(Healthcare.gov)

Does Obamacare’s success depend on these mom jeans?

No. But a new social media-driven push to get young Americans to enroll in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act may turn out to be critical to the law’s success. And it once again places mothers at the heart of the government’s ACA enrollment and outreach efforts.

The Obama administration has already courted young women — there was that whole “your cats and dogs can talk and want you to sign up for Obamacare” Internet video — and just last month tried to get mothers to convince their adult children to enroll, reaching out to the moms with a staid TV ad campaign.

Now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — the lead agency tasked with implementing the ACA — is looking for word-of-mouth publicity with a new digital campaign it hopes will get people buzzing. If the mom jeans photo doesn’t do it, perhaps the “MOM” tattoo pic will.

It’s not just “mother knows best.” If not enough younger, healthier people sign up for the new health insurance markets known as “exchanges,” insurance premiums could skyrocket and the system could collapse under the weight of caring for older, generally less healthy Americans.

And research shows mothers remain among the most influential sounding boards for young Americans.

The TV ad campaign that launched last month aims to get moms between the ages of 35 and 64 to win over their adult kids ages 18-34.

Obama — no stranger to, ahem, comfortable jeans himself — made the pitch in his State of the Union.

“Moms, get on your kids to sign up,” he urged. “Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind — plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.”

Officials note that there was always going to be an aggressive marketing push before the March 31 deadline for uninsured Americans to buy health insurance or face a fine. White House officials have said for months that they expect younger Americans to wait until the last minute before seeking to purchase insurance.

But they also acknowledge that the catastrophically botched Obamacare rollout — notably the sputtering federal website handling new private insurance applications for 26 states — upended the strategy for getting young people to enroll and delayed the advertising push.

CMS found last summer that there were two main obstacles to enlisting moms and enrolling young people. First, many were unaware of the subsidies and credits designed to make health insurance affordable. Second, the “perceived complexity” of shopping for health insurance kept many people away.

The headline-grabbing issues with the HealthCare.gov site did nothing to reassure younger Americans (or their moms) about how hard it would be to sign up.

But with the website now working properly and the March 31 deadline looming, “we’re laser-focused on that 18-34 population,” CMS communications director Julie Bataille told Yahoo News.

The TV ad is running nationally on channels like ABC Family, Lifetime, Hallmark and Oxygen. The campaign extends to digital, including an online campaign via Hulu.

The social media campaign will start on CMS's social media sites, from HealthCare.Gov to Facebook, Twitter and other venues.

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